The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE Government has proposed that fines in respect of copyright infringement should be charged per each CD or product pirated just as in stocktheft cases as a means to deter would-be offenders and to protect the works of artistes in the country.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said this following the President Mnangagwa’s interface with artistes from Bulawayo recently where they aired out their concerns including lack of seriousness by the authorities in dealing with the scourge of piracy.
Mrs Mabhiza said it was important to protect the works of local artistes who were eking out a living out of sales of their music and film. She said her ministry was aware of its role in protecting intellectual property rights.
“In the case of infringement of those rights our Act provides for several remedies, they provide for recourse in cases of infringement for example damages, where the infringed party can sue for damages, it also provides for an account of profits and also penalties that are found under this Act. Anyone found guilty of violating copyright laws will be liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years,” she said.
She went on.“This is very deterrent in our view and what we are supposed to do is enforcement. We need our courts to split the sentence, to say for example where someone is caught with pirated CDs in passing sentence it should be two years per CD. This is what we must do in keeping up with sentencing like the fines, the monetary aspects.”
Mrs Mabhiza implored other stakeholders such as the police to take up the challenge and support the initiative to curb the scourge of piracy that she said had impoverished artistes.
In order to keep up with the rising cost of services and inflation, Mrs Mabhiza said her ministry has been issuing statutory instruments from time to time to increase the fines to make them more meaningful.
The Government increased fines for criminal offences in October this year by up to 200 percent in a new scale of fines announced in terms of the Finance Act and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The new fines were published in the Government Gazette under Statutory Instrument 209 of 2019 (Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act) (Standard Scale of Fines) Notice, 2019. A level 10 offence now carries a fine of $6 000. National Arts Council of Zimbabwe director Mr Nicholas Moyo said the artistes were worried about the interpretation of the law by the justice system.
“The issue is interpretation of the law, if a person is found with 100 pirated CDs from 10 artistes, they should be charged for those 10 counts because it is in respect of different artistes, each count being two years making it 20 years imprisonment. When it is like this it is very deterrent, unlike making it one count of piracy,” he said.
Mr Moyo said those who pirate CDs seldom sell music from one artiste so accordingly they have to be charged for all the artistes that they would have infringed upon.
He said once such things were enforced then artistes would have the monopoly of selling their products at the correct prices and realising profits as piracy would have been curbed. Furthermore, he said the Ministry of Justice should be oriented on Intellectual Property Rights so that they could then pass sentences accordingly.
Mr Moyo who is currently in Colombia said he was pleased to see how people operate in that country.
“I was on the streets yesterday and I was impressed to see that there were street vendors that sell original books, they get the books from the authorities and are able to sell them in an organised and legal manner. The books are not pirated and everyone benefits,” he said.
Relevant authorities in the country have been accused by artistes of ignoring piracy which has affected their careers as the fines are considered too measly and offenders get away with their crimes easily. This has led to a situation where artistes were putting up solo efforts in the fight against piracy with Chase Skuza having running battles with pirates in Bulawayo a few years ago.
The Zimbabwean Publishers Association has also not been spared as books are also being pirated at an alarming rate with schools having been caught on the wrong side of the law after being found with pirated books.